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Schooling, Homeschooling, and Now, "Unschooling" 1345

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the everything-i-need-to-know-i-learned-from-quake dept.
ciaohound writes "The Baltimore Sun has a story about 'unschooling,' which is like homeschooling except, well, without the schooling. '...unschooling incorporates every facet of a child's life into the education process, allowing a child to follow his passions and learn at his own pace, year-round. And it assumes that an outing at the park — or even hours spent playing a video game — can be just as valuable a teaching resource as Hooked on Phonics.' If you have ever been forced to sit in a classroom where no learning was taking place, you may understand the appeal. A driving force behind the movement is parents' dissatisfaction with regular schools, and presumably with homeschooling as well. Yet few researchers are even aware of unschooling and little research exists on its effectiveness. Any Slashdotters who have experience with 'unschooling?'"
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Schooling, Homeschooling, and Now, "Unschooling"

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  • by Hognoxious (631665) on Friday September 04, 2009 @01:18PM (#29313165) Homepage Journal
    Sounds like a fancy name for goofing off, skiving and truancy.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 04, 2009 @01:22PM (#29313239)

      Sounds like a fancy name for goofing off, skiving and truancy.

      So... from your ability to spell, all of these apply to you.

    • by Absolut187 (816431) on Friday September 04, 2009 @01:30PM (#29313383) Homepage

      Disagree completely.

      Learning doesn't have to occur in a classroom. What little learning does occur in classrooms could be achieved in a fraction of the time it takes in formal schooling.

      Here's a hypothetical for you:

      Child A is taught to be inquisitive about everything around him. As he encounters things in his daily life he figures out how they work, rather than accepting them as magical black boxes.

      Child B sits in a classroom with 40 other students doing multiplication tables until he has them all memorized.

      Who do you think is going to be a better engineer someday?

      Obviously, Child A needs to learn his multiplication tables too.

      But I seem remember that about 80%-90% of my time spent in public school I was bored out my mind to damn near the point of insanity after 15 years of it. Granted, I am in the top 1 percentile intelligence-wise. But a school system that sacrifices the very best students in an effort to cater to the very worst - that isn't a good strategy for any society.

      • by ravenshrike (808508) on Friday September 04, 2009 @01:39PM (#29313575)
        Child C, the one who took apart the toaster when he was 4.
      • by Cyberax (705495) on Friday September 04, 2009 @01:43PM (#29313639)

        Same here. I was usually bored to death by the school.

        Until I got transfered to a special school for gifted children, where the material was presented at much quicker pace and at much more depth.

        Just imagine: math textbooks with problems that you can't just solve right away!

      • by Timothy Brownawell (627747) <tbrownaw@prjek.net> on Friday September 04, 2009 @01:43PM (#29313649) Homepage Journal

        Obviously, Child A needs to learn his multiplication tables too.

        So you're saying "school + extracurricular learning > school", which is a rather silly thing to argue about.

        What this is about is whether "extracurricular learning > school", which could be slightly less silly. If whoever was helping with the "extracurricular" learning knew a large amount about pretty much everything, and could generate interest in all of history, politics, math, literacy, science (how to use experiments and record-keeping to assist curiosity), the various trivia that we learned from science (earth goes around the sun), basic accounting, etc.

      • by Hognoxious (631665) on Friday September 04, 2009 @01:44PM (#29313665) Homepage Journal

        Who do you think is going to be a better engineer someday?

        Child B. Maths is a prerequisite for being an Engineer (with a big "E"). Spend all day tinkering with old bikes and maybe you'll be a mechanic.

        But I seem remember that about 80%-90% of my time spent in public school I was bored out my mind to damn near the point of insanity after 15 years of it. Granted, I am in the top 1 percentile intelligence-wise.

        And that makes everything you say true? FWIW I'm the same level, but I wasn't bored.

      • by pnuema (523776) on Friday September 04, 2009 @01:45PM (#29313687)
        But a school system that sacrifices the very best students in an effort to cater to the very worst - that isn't a good strategy for any society.

        Why is it that I only hear this from smart kids who whine about having been bored in school?

        There is one very good reason why the public school system has consistently told people like you to get bent. If you track students by ability - all the smart kids together, all the average kids together, all the dumb kids together - you are flushing the dumb ones down the toilet. Even the biggest idiot knows that he has been labeled stupid, and will perform to your expectations. You'll never get them back after that. Conversely, in our current system - you may have been bored, but I'd lay even money you turned out just fine. You didn't need the help. You were just a spoiled brat who couldn't think of anyone besides yourself. (Says the former spoiled brat who had his eyes opened by a much less intelligent, but much wiser man than me. Thanks Josh.)

        • by TooMuchToDo (882796) on Friday September 04, 2009 @01:56PM (#29313913)
          Yes, clearly it's better to drag down the more intelligent to make it fair for those who can't learn as fast. Fuck. That. The world needs ditch diggers.
        • by Red Flayer (890720) on Friday September 04, 2009 @02:02PM (#29314053) Journal
          That's horsecrap.

          I know many brilliant people who never lived up to their potential partly because, among other reasons, they were completely stifled in a public education system. They were never taught how to work hard to learn, how to challenge themselves.

          Yes, there's some selfishness and entitlement issues with people feeling that their school system failed their brilliance.

          But from a societal standpoint, that educational system failed society at large by not nurturing the potential of those people.

          But of course, that's not the purpose of the educational system in the US. The purpose is to create a functional workforce that is conditioned to structured systems.
          • by pnuema (523776) on Friday September 04, 2009 @02:21PM (#29314487)
            I know many brilliant people who never lived up to their potential partly because, among other reasons, they were completely stifled in a public education system. They were never taught how to work hard to learn, how to challenge themselves.

            I'd submit that the vast majority of us never live up to our potential. I certainly didn't. That doesn't mean that I am not happy and successful. Your friends were given the same opportunities that the rest of us were to learn those skills. They only have themselves to blame if they did not.

            But of course, that's not the purpose of the educational system in the US. The purpose is to create a functional workforce that is conditioned to structured systems.

            And what is wrong with that? I sit in my cube, every day, largely bored, but enjoying a standard of living my great-great-grandfather could never have imagined. Our system works pretty damn well.

          • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater@gmai l . c om> on Friday September 04, 2009 @02:39PM (#29314845) Homepage

            I know many brilliant people who never lived up to their potential partly because, among other reasons, they were completely stifled in a public education system. They were never taught how to work hard to learn, how to challenge themselves.

            Sure, the looked the part - but when it came time to stop talking and start doing, they fell apart. Which implies that they weren't as brilliant as you or they thought. If they lacked the drive in school to get off their butts and improve themselves - they weren't going to succeed among other (actually) brilliant people when they got out into the real world.
             
             

            But from a societal standpoint, that educational system failed society at large by not nurturing the potential of those people.

            Falsifiable by existence proof - the number of brilliant people who did excel after attending public school. From a societal standpoint - the educational system was a screaming success because it separated the poseurs from the real McCoy.
             
             

            Yes, there's some selfishness and entitlement issues with people feeling that their school system failed their brilliance.

            No, there's nothing but selfishness and entitlement issues - it's not societies fault that they weren't actually the special snowflake they thought themselves to be.

          • by Lord Grey (463613) * on Friday September 04, 2009 @03:14PM (#29315513)

            ... They were never taught how to work hard to learn, how to challenge themselves....

            That statement struck a chord with me, in my experience as a parent.

            My own son, who is now a sophomore in college, was "gifted." By that, I mean that he is intelligent, he found schoolwork to be extremely easy for many years, and he seemed to have talents in certain areas "beyond his years." He coasted through school, found it extremely boring and filled with (what he perceived to be) dummies at both ends of the classroom.

            The thing is, he eventually ran into school material that he could not immediately understand. At that point, after so many years of coasting, he had no idea how to go about solving this new problem of his. It took him years to figure out how to really work at that kind of stuff. He did, and along the way he realized that he wasn't quite as bright as he thought he was.

            I've seen other kids follow the same path, but sometimes with different results. Some do what my son managed to do -- figure it out and learn from it -- while others seemed to just give up and focus on the things that they can do well without effort. Some of the kids in that latter group will succeed, but a lot of them will wind up disappointed with their lives down the road. The stuff that happens to you is rarely just what you want or like, and you have to deal with it. The former group will deal with it, but the latter group will consistently either turn to help, ignore the problem or run away.

            All generalizations are bad, I know. I'm just making a point.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Nick Ives (317)

          There is one very good reason why the public school system has consistently told people like you to get bent. If you track students by ability - all the smart kids together, all the average kids together, all the dumb kids together - you are flushing the dumb ones down the toilet. Even the biggest idiot knows that he has been labeled stupid, and will perform to your expectations. You'll never get them back after that.

          That's just total rubbish though. The best classes I took at secondary school (UK, so GCSEs) were the ones that were segregated on ability. We ploughed through the curriculum at a fair pace in our maths and science classes whereas mixed ability classes dragged as the teacher tried to respond to various levels of ability at the same time. Mixed ability classes might work if learning was more focused on groups of students interacting and discussing ideas in groups rather than the rote learn-to-test that secon

        • by db32 (862117) on Friday September 04, 2009 @02:12PM (#29314277) Journal
          Now...high school is a bit of a different beast. However, I am rarely bored in classes I take anymore. There is always someone else to help understand the subject and there are almost always more students than teachers. If you are bored it is because you are allowing someone else to fall behind. If you understand it so well that you have nothing to do, help the others understand and then you can all move forward.

          I can tell you from personal experience hearing another student say "I could not have passed without you" is much more fulfilling than simply hearing the instructor say "you passed". Only the foolish refuse to train their replacements. The brilliant will have a hard time finding enough replacements to keep them moving upward.
        • by couchslug (175151) on Friday September 04, 2009 @02:55PM (#29315149)

          "you are flushing the dumb ones down the toilet."

          The dumb ones will dive into the toilet of their own accord, but before they do they help make school a Hellmouth.

          The bright kids shouldn't have to suffer merely to make the dumbshits feel good when it is smart folk who advance mankind. Nurture the intelligent and don't hold them back to make the worthless feel good. We have program after program to make the parents of Johnny Window-Licker feel good by pretending he won't be a mop-actuating doorstop, while gifted kids are merely pressured to conform.

          Many Slashdotters are well aware how the US education system exalts the stupid. No surprise that bright parents who value their children send them to boarding schools or home school them. The first step in helping the gifted is to rescue them from the herd.

      • by Bught_42 (1012499) on Friday September 04, 2009 @01:57PM (#29313949)
        Don't underestimate the value of being bored, or being forced to be at someplace other than at home. When I sit at home all day I have a tendency not to do much intellectually, I play video games, watch TV and movies, and maybe read a book.
        When I'm stuck at school or work and am bored I find better ways to entertain myself, thinking, writing or drawing. I have had teachers that didn't care if I sat in the back of the class room coding on my laptop as long as I kept up and didn't disturb anyone else.

        This might just be my lack of motivation but I find it very helpful to be forced to find someway to entertain myself, often in a positive manner, when not surrounded by the distractions of home.
      • by Alzheimers (467217) on Friday September 04, 2009 @01:59PM (#29313991)

        Child B

        Because one day Child A is going to open one of those black boxes that has the sticker: "WARNING: ELECTRICAL SHOCK DANGER IF OPENED. NO CONSUMER SERVICEABLE PARTS" and does something "inquisitive", like touching a flyback transformer or CRT capacitor that can be found in most monitors and TVs.

        Then there will be no more Child A.

      • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland.yahoo@com> on Friday September 04, 2009 @02:00PM (#29314021) Homepage Journal

        Child D: The one that went to school and had the support at home to be inquisitive.
        When I as in school every person that complained about being bored, being in the top percentile and said school was a waste weren't taking the top tier classes.

        Those of use taking the top class in every subject were quite engaged by school and learned a lot of cool stuff becasue those teachers are often the most interesting.

      • by SeaDuck79 (851025) on Friday September 04, 2009 @02:01PM (#29314043)

        Parents who can and will take the time to teach their children about the world around them and how to act and interact within it will, more than likely, end up with children who are well-adjusted, relatively well-educated and prepared children. Parents who believe that it's someone else's job to do all of those things will more likely end up with entitlement babies who will be leeches on society.

        Some kids will be well-educated because of our public schools, and some will end up well-educated in spite of them. The same can be true of any other learning environment, if poorly and carelessly administered. My 15 year old, who none of us think is a genius, scored as post-high school in almost every subject. My son, who is very smart, started college at 16, because we had nothing left to teach him. Both would have been bored in public school, as I was.

        The point is that parents should have the ability to choose that which works best for their children, so long as that choice produces acceptable results.

      • by Enry (630) <enry@way g a .net> on Friday September 04, 2009 @02:06PM (#29314149) Journal

        I reject your hypothetical situation for the same reasons that others have. Both children need to learn their multiplication tables. You're also making the assumption that Child B isn't curious about the world around them. What if Child A isn't curious or doesn't spend their time productively? Video games and TV make awful good temptations.

        In my case, we sent my daughter to a Montessori preschool and she just started first grade in public school a few days ago. She has a day off later in September, so instead of spending the day goofing off or learning multiplication tables, she and I are flying to Washington DC for the day and I'll be sure to get her full of museums and other sights in the city. She probably won't understand it all (she's only 6), but I guarantee it's not the last trip of its kind she and I will make.

      • Who do you think is going to be a better engineer someday?

        Child B. Child B without a shadow of a doubt.

        I'm sorry to burst the bubbles of all the school reformists around here, but the simple fact is learning anything, and learning it well, requires a certain amount of effort, work and indeed hard slogging. While I agree that school should not be a monotonous, pointless drudge, at some point in education student are going to be required to sit down at their desks and drill something difficult into their heads.

        Do you know what happens when you let children run around, be inquisitive, ask questions, appreciate concepts, and open doors of wonderment in every topic? You get Arts students. Arts and Humanities students who know how to appreciate everything and know how to do absolutely nothing. People who can master the art of appearing intelligent whilst remaining shockingly ignorant. People whose ideas and tastes and practices are simply imitations of something that was actually original.

        When you sit a child down, get them to learn their times tables; learn how to spell and write; learn how to add, subtract, multiply and divide; learn how to solve algebraic equations; learn the periodic table; learn the organs of the body; learn the continents and countries of the world; learn the history of their own country; learn the planets of the solar system; and nowadays learn the principles and usage of computers, you will have given that child the tools they need to build a life worth living. A life that they spend bettering themselves and their society.

        I was as bored as anyone in school. Sleepy too. But, reluctant as I was, I learned my lessons and I know full well that if I had been left to sit at home with entire library of books and no one to watch me I would probably have spent the whole day playing video games. Maybe my education could have been faster, better and more comprehensive, but only if my society wanted to spend more on it. But no matter how magnificent my experience could have been, I could not know all that I do today without those mind-numbingly painful drills and lessons and test and reviews.

        Learning is fun. But it's also pretty hard. And a wide curriculum means a better chance of everyone finding something they are good at. Combined, this means that most children will be bored at some stage during the school day. But it also means there's a good chance they'll learn something each day too, or learn how to do it better.

    • by Abreu (173023) on Friday September 04, 2009 @01:34PM (#29313465)

      Sounds like a fancy name for goofing off, skiving and truancy.

      Naw, we're jus teachin' the kids to run the farm an read the Bible, thas all they need!

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Hadlock (143607)

      The Dallas Observer had an article about "NoSchooling", which is a better name, IMO. The kids ended up learning to read so they could figure out cheat codes for their video games. So in practice it can work. Their parents (and resulting so were their kids) were above average in intelligence, so they were able to get away with this. I think the problem with no-schooling children of average intelligence (really, think about this, most slashdotters don't come in contact with truly average intelligence children

    • by PoeticExplosion (943918) <poeticexplosion@ ... com minus distro> on Friday September 04, 2009 @02:13PM (#29314309)

      Hmm, odd. I don't remember it being like that at all. If anything, I had a lot more time to learn things than I do now at college.

      As a kid, my mom read all sorts of great books to me, and when I was older she could literally just leave library books on the kitchen table. I had learned that books are interesting, so of course I read them. Besides fiction, I loved books about science and history. I even tried to read some Platonic dialogues in 4th grade. I was really into spy stuff for a while, so we also did a lot of codes and ciphers, which quickly translated into the fun parts of math. I knew I wanted to go to college, so we did some formal curriculum for a couple hours every morning in middle school. It was mostly lame, but it was helpful with math at least. I also joined the "Homeschool Film Club". I learned Adobe After Effects and did a lot of camera work for the local public access channel.

      In ninth grade I decided to try a fairly rigorous Christian private school in the area. It was fine, I got straight As, but it was boring. The kids had no motivation to learn, and I could progress in most subjects on my own faster than at the school. (Math was again the exception, I had a fantastic math teacher.) So I went back to unschooling in tenth grade. I was really into popular science books at this point, and I read a lot about theoretical physics and evolutionary biology. I was also reconsidering a lot of the religious ideas I had, so I was reading a lot of hardcore theology.

      I discovered UC Berkeley's online lectures around this time, and listened to a bunch of college-level psychology. Eventually I became interested in the philosophical side of psychology, and started investigating philosophy. Fortuitously, UC Berkeley has a philosophy professor who likes podcasting, so I listened to a few of his series of lectures. I went through the first half of Heidegger's "Being and Time" this way. It's a hideously difficult book, even for philosophy, but I had a lot of free time!

      During this same period I was working with a professional theatre in a neighboring town, as well as a couple local community theatres. Since I didn't have set hours for school, I was able to be there whenever they needed me. I acted in several shows, and worked on lighting and general tech work.

      Oh, almost forgot. I also took a couple community college classes, in physics and writing. They were both absurdly easy and I didn't learn anything, but it looked good on my transcript to have some formal classes at the college level.

      I decided I wanted to go to the University of Chicago, if I could. It's ranked 8th in the country, but in my opinion it's academically better than the Ivies and other colleges ranked above it. (MIT and Caltech are the exceptions, but they are also more narrowly focused.) I applied, got in, and am currently attending. It's awesome being around other academically engaged people, but I kinda miss the chance to learn on my own. Luckily, I have the summer to do that!

      I admit I'm a bit of an outlier, and I probably would have done fine in the public schools. Not everyone who is unschooled will have a natural passion for academics. However, if anything, unschooling is even better for people who don't want to become academics. My younger sister has some minor learning disabilities, and is far more into the arts than the sciences. She spent her high school years learning about theatre and music, and has become a fantastic actress. She spent the summer working with the professional theatre company I mentioned, but in a much more intensive way than I ever did. However, while it's not her focus, she still loves learning intellectual things as well. She's currently doing some pretty substantial research into psychology and counseling. She's trying to decide between theatre and counseling as possible careers. Either way, I'm convinced she's in a better position than she would be at the public schools, where she'd likely be forced into special LD classes and not allowed to explore the things that actually interest her.

      It's entirely possible to do unschooling badly, but that doesn't mean it's inherently a bad idea.

  • by dave-tx (684169) * <{moc.liamg} {ta} {todhsals+80891fd}> on Friday September 04, 2009 @01:19PM (#29313177)

    "Unschooling: For those kids who aspire to be the dish washers of the future"

    But seriously, is there any less way to be prepared for higher education (higher, meaning anything from 3rd grade on up)?

    • by candeoastrum (1262256) on Friday September 04, 2009 @01:21PM (#29313203)
      Once they graduate from unschooling then they can master unworking so they can earn their unhome that goes with their unspouse.
    • by caladine (1290184) on Friday September 04, 2009 @01:25PM (#29313281)

      "Unschooling: For those kids who aspire to be the dish washers of the future"

      But seriously, is there any less way to be prepared for higher education (higher, meaning anything from 3rd grade on up)?

      Given the number of children in the current system that aren't remotely prepared...?

    • by ZorbaTHut (126196) on Friday September 04, 2009 @01:28PM (#29313333) Homepage

      No, but it might be great for actually learning something. I don't know about the majority of people here, but I learned despite my school, not because of it - every skill I now use professionally is a skill that my school took great effort to teach glacially, incorrectly, and uselessly.

      On the other hand, the year in which I basically dropped out of high school, I learned a huge amount.

      I don't know if this will be better than conventional education, but, honestly? It'd be hard for it to be worse.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mwvdlee (775178)

        In school, I learned how to read and write, how to use numbers, some basics on how the world works in a biological/scientific sense and - perhaps most importantly - how to deal with and understand other people.

        Yes, the school system sucks. Any school system sucks simply because it will never be able to deal with all the different types of students. But NOT having a school system is probably even worse.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by garcia (6573)

      "Unschooling: For those kids who aspire to be the dish washers of the future"

      I know plenty of dishwashers who graduated high school and several, in this economy, have college degrees. At what point do we say that no matter how you progress through school, there may come a time when you are at the bottom rung for one reason or another?

      Do I think that "unschooling" is a good idea? Not particularly, especially after watching a documentary entitled Off the Grid: Life on the Mesa [snagfilms.com] (you can watch it there free). T

      • by dave-tx (684169) * <{moc.liamg} {ta} {todhsals+80891fd}> on Friday September 04, 2009 @01:32PM (#29313419)

        I know plenty of dishwashers who graduated high school and several, in this economy, have college degrees. At what point do we say that no matter how you progress through school, there may come a time when you are at the bottom rung for one reason or another?

        I should have added the disclaimer that I was a dishwasher for years in my teens. I was also damned good at it, and I think that part of the reason was the learned discipline to focus on a boring and unpleasant task. And while that's a backhanded compliment at formal education, it's a real and tangible benefit.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mosb1000 (710161)
        "I have a feeling that the majority of those that think it would be the best option, are probably better off going back to school themselves."

        No, generally people who seek alternative forms of education for their children are the ones who care about whether or not their children are learning, and are willing to give their children the time of day (after all, it is a huge time commitment). Parents who don't care just send their kids to school so they don't have to deal with them.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by spun (1352)

      Why should this necessarily be worse than regular schooling? If this technique teaches that every moment is a learning opportunity, and it does not teach children that learning is a chore, children who learn in this fashion may grow up to be more knowledgeable and curious than their peers. The only important thing that I see lacking in this technique is teaching children how to jump through the arbitrary hoops that life will expect them to jump through. If the parents make this lesson a part of the learning

    • by elrous0 (869638) * on Friday September 04, 2009 @01:53PM (#29313859)
      It's funny how things change. When I was young, we didn't have the term "unschooling." Back then we just called it "dropping out."
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      John Holt and Daniel Greenberg have written about it for about 40 years. The school directory in the article is just not informed on the area, here an example peer-reviewed academic journal article: "Teaching Justice through Experience [ed.gov].

      Unschooling is much more closely related to free schooling or democratic schooling as has been practiced successfully since the 1920s at places like Summerhill School [wikipedia.org]. These students are sought after by colleges [powweb.com] because they are articulate, self-motivated learners. It is ac

  • Sounds like... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mcgrew (92797) * on Friday September 04, 2009 @01:20PM (#29313191) Homepage Journal

    Old fashioned good parenting. At dinner time, I'd make a game of learning, with Q&A, and they loved it. It's taking the time to answer your kids' questions and satisfy their innate curiosity, rather than stifling it like the public school system does. A walk in the park CAN be a learning experience.

    • Re:Sounds like... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by eln (21727) on Friday September 04, 2009 @01:54PM (#29313865) Homepage

      Old fashioned good parenting. At dinner time, I'd make a game of learning, with Q&A, and they loved it. It's taking the time to answer your kids' questions and satisfy their innate curiosity, rather than stifling it like the public school system does. A walk in the park CAN be a learning experience.

      You know what old-fashioned good parenting is? Doing all that stuff you just said AND making sure your kid goes to school, helping him with his homework from school, and making sure getting a good education (including school) is an important value instilled on him from the very beginning.

      The public schools just about everywhere are just fine at teaching the basic skills that serve as a foundation for higher education (reading, writing, arithmetic, the sciences, etc), but they simply don't have the resources or the time to give each child the individualized attention they need to make sure they truly understand what's being taught. This is why ultimately your child's success in school is up to you as a parent. You need to constantly reinforce the importance of school, and you need to be ready willing and able to help and encourage them when they're not in school.

      Too many parents today are dumping their kids off on the schools, doing nothing to promote education or learning during the times the kids are not in school, and just expecting that the school system will somehow be able to turn their neglected children into Rhodes scholars. Then, when that doesn't happen, they blame the school system.

      My kids attend a public school that serves kids from all economic and social backgrounds. They do very well in school because we maintain clear communication with their teachers, we make sure they do homework every single day, we help them with what they don't understand, and we attend any and all parent-teacher conferences available to us. Meanwhile, the kids whose parents just dump them off every day, never talk to the teacher, never ask about their homework, and don't seem to care if their kids are educated or not, struggle. Then, when the kid comes home with poor grades, they blame the teacher and the school, despite the fact that the teacher may have been begging them to come in and talk about their child for months and months, and they never showed up.

      We already do plenty (some would say too much) to try and hold schools accountable for student performance. It's time to start holding parents accountable too.

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Friday September 04, 2009 @01:21PM (#29313201)

    These parents are in for a nasty shock when their precious snowflakes head off to university and can't get in. What you will discover, and many homeschooling parents have already found out, is that they don't care how good a job you think you did or how proud you are. You pass their various admissions tests, or you go somewhere else. They are not at all interested in your ideas of how education should be. Your reading comprehension, writing, and math skills had better be up to spec or you are sent packing.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by IcyNeko (891749)
      I'd mod this up if I could. Too many parents think they're better than "the system" and they raise social retards. I know one in particular whom was so bad, he dropped out of college his second year of music school.... after his parents OK'd him to bring his underaged girlfriend from Romania to the US. There are just some things you can't teach no matter how much mommy and daddy love you and want to waddle you in their wuv. Like test pressure. And cramming. And the experience of studying in groups competi
    • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland.yahoo@com> on Friday September 04, 2009 @01:28PM (#29313329) Homepage Journal

      Good homeschoolers can pass those tests just fine, often better the class taught kids.

      Home schooling isn't about goofing off.

      • Can parents do a good job teaching their kids? Sure. Will they? Well that depends. Plenty of parents think they are smarter than they are, or more problematically, think their kids are smarter than they are.

        I work at a university and because of the problems with home schooling and charter schools, they instituted new entrance tests some time ago. Just having a reasonable SAT score and a diploma wasn't enough (it's a public school so admissions aren't harsh), you had to pass their own English and math test.

    • by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Friday September 04, 2009 @01:28PM (#29313343) Homepage Journal

      What you will discover, and many homeschooling parents have already found out... Your reading comprehension, writing, and math skills had better be up to spec or you are sent packing.

      Got a citation to support this? From what I see, homeschooled kids tend to be better-prepared academically than their public-schooled counterparts.

      • by ari_j (90255) on Friday September 04, 2009 @01:39PM (#29313573)
        I don't know if you were home-schooled or not. He didn't say that home-schooled students are necessarily lacking in those areas. He only said that you must not be lacking in those areas, regardless of your background, if you want to go on to higher learning. The implication is that this "unschooling" (itself not a word, so you're off to a bad start right there) concept is likely to fail to teach those areas as effectively as a structured classroom can.
      • by x_IamSpartacus_x (1232932) on Friday September 04, 2009 @02:08PM (#29314187)
        Absolutely correct. Studies consistently show that homeschoolers are ridiculously better prepared than students who have been through the public school system. A study in 1997 (admittedly 12 years ago) showed that students who have been homeschooled for two years or more usually score between the 86th and 92nd percentile in every subject.
        linky [hslda.org]

        Homeschooling has its problems, usually social ones, but academically, homeschooling nearly always produces vastly better educated children.

        I was homeschooled for all of my primary and secondary education in Arizona (a VERY good state to be homeschooled in because of the LACK of regulation it puts on homeschoolers. It seems Arizona has realized that homeschooling produces MUCH smarter kids and it is best to leave government well out of it) and don't have a High School Diploma or GED. I got a FULL SCHOOLERSHIP into ANY state school (ASU, UofA or NAU) because my SAT scores were nearly perfect. Get that GP. I. Didn't. Pay. Anything. Because. I. Was. Homeschooled.

        Most homeschooling parents have found out that it is an incredible sacrifice to stay home and teach your child yourself, but it is one of the best ways of showing your love for your child by providing an actual education for them instead of the public system that is failing so many children across the country.
        • by MojoRilla (591502) on Friday September 04, 2009 @02:52PM (#29315085)

          I got a FULL SCHOOLERSHIP into ANY state school (ASU, UofA or NAU) because my SAT scores were nearly perfect. Get that GP. I. Didn't. Pay. Anything. Because. I. Was. Homeschooled.

          No. You didn't pay anything because you were smart.

          The very real possibility of some of those stats is that homeschooled kids would be smart in regular school as well. Parent involvement is critical in any education, and the commitment of homeschooling parents is very high. Maybe parents with that commitment level are smarter or work harder and pass those traits on to their kids.

          Just like the study reported in Freakonomics [usatoday.com] that kids parents with at least 50 books in their house score 5% better than a child with no books, and a child with 100 books scores 5% better than the child with 50 books. But there was no correlation at all with test scores and how often parents read to kids. Because educated and motivated people will buy more books, and they pass those traits on to their kids. The books are not the cause of intelligence, but an indicator of intelligence.

          It may be the same for homeschooling.

        • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Friday September 04, 2009 @03:11PM (#29315441)

          I think part of the problem with that statistic is that in the public schools, you get the kids from the worst socio-economic classes in the nation. Try teaching someone that math matters when his buddy in the gang got shot in front of his eyes, he doesn't know his dad, and his mom is selling drugs from home.

          For parents who have the proper education and how know how to pass it on, homeschooling can produce excellent results. But realize this is a self-selected sample, and it won't work for everyone.

        • by Filip22012005 (852281) on Friday September 04, 2009 @03:23PM (#29315681)

          I got a FULL SCHOOLERSHIP into ANY state school (ASU, UofA or NAU) because my SAT scores were nearly perfect

          This sentence is the best!

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by The Moof (859402)
        Odds are, if your parents are homeschooling you, they'd be the same type of parents to ride you about doing well in school if you were attending public school.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      These parents are in for a nasty shock when their precious snowflakes head off to university and can't get in. What you will discover, and many homeschooling parents have already found out, is that they don't care how good a job you think you did or how proud you are. You pass their various admissions tests, or you go somewhere else. They are not at all interested in your ideas of how education should be. Your reading comprehension, writing, and math skills had better be up to spec or you are sent packing.

      Even if they succeed in insilling the knowledge necessary to pass the admissions tests (homeschoolers are required, at least in my state, to pass regular competency tests, just like public school students) any child educated in this way will be woefully unprepared for the regimented world of the higher-level instruction. All of a sudden, they'll be expected to shut up, sit still, and listen for hours to a boring instructor with his whiteboard and PowerPoint slides.

    • Overconfidence (Score:4, Interesting)

      by C10H14N2 (640033) on Friday September 04, 2009 @01:55PM (#29313903)

      The parents are usually the ones who barely got out of 9th grade, couldn't now pass the sixth and think they're more qualified to teach K-12, start to finish, than a dozen people who collectively have more years of tertiary education than said parents have walked the earth.

      Textbook cases of...

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning-Kruger_effect [wikipedia.org]

      Besides, a major component of schooling is in fact /just being in school/ so you'll be, hopefully, a vaguely functional human being who can navigate all the various and sundry organizations of life and put up with all the other dysfunctional members of the species with a minimum quantity of blood spilling.

  • by fmita (517041) on Friday September 04, 2009 @01:22PM (#29313231) Homepage Journal
    This is sort of an interesting idea, but it's obviously a bit too unstructured, I think. What you need is intervals of self-directed learning punctuated by short periods of guidance from a teacher with a reasonably broad range of knowledge. In sum, I'd bet on Montessori over this any day.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Bruiser80 (1179083)
      As other threads have stated, it depends on the kid.

      My whole family went through the Montessori program from 3-year-old kindergarten to 5-8th grade. Some did really well and others, well, not so good.

      The structure part of Montessori is really important - if a student is allowed to skate through without honing skills, they can leave really academically unbalanced.

      I didn't like biology, so I kept doing the same vertibrate/invertibrate flash cards. I didn't like reading, so I read the same book on gre
  • by CorporateSuit (1319461) on Friday September 04, 2009 @01:23PM (#29313251)
    The kid is only in school for 6 hours in the day. Use the other 8-10 of their non-sleep hours to do this stuff. School isn't a substitute for parenting, and it shouldn't be their only source of learning.
    • Just remember.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Totenglocke (1291680) on Friday September 04, 2009 @01:43PM (#29313651)

      what Mark Twain said - "I have never let my schooling interfere with my education".

      Schools theses days are about indoctrinating and conforming to useless standards, not about learning. If you want to learn, you have to do it outside of school.

  • No preparation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by russotto (537200) on Friday September 04, 2009 @01:24PM (#29313271) Journal
    If children don't spend hour after endless hour sitting behind a desk in the classroom, how are they going to adapt to spending hour after endless hour sitting behind a desk in the cubicle?
  • by b4dc0d3r (1268512) on Friday September 04, 2009 @01:25PM (#29313287)

    Good parents would do well with this, poor parents terribly. If only there were a way to decide who gets to do this.... but then who gets to decide? We can't, that's who.

    I've taught before, I know there are both kinds of parents out there. If you're pessimistic about this you probably had the bad parents, optimistic you probably had the good ones.

    Think of how the kid feels - learning what's needed and being interested in what's being learned. The only fear I have is that lots of kids are forced to take certain classes, learn that they actually like it, and have a happy and successful career. We just need a guarantee that the students will be exposed to more than just their interests, and then I won't have a problem with this.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Hognoxious (631665)

      If you're pessimistic about this you probably had the bad parents, optimistic you probably had the good ones.

      That would certainly be true if were all so thick that we couldn't understand that our own family != all families.

      But don't beat yourself up for making such a ridiculous comment, it's probably you parents' fault.

  • If the parents (Score:4, Insightful)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland.yahoo@com> on Friday September 04, 2009 @01:26PM (#29313303) Homepage Journal

    actively use everything as a teaching tool, then fine, otherwise it's just creating a steaming pile of ignorant burger flippers.

    Of course, if they were already doing that, then the school system would be fine.
    Most homeschoolers I know are people who aren't sociable and just don't want to deal with the daily social 'grind' of dealing with people. Also they ahve some fear the child will be exposed to something outside there own beliefs. Political or theological.

  • by vertinox (846076) on Friday September 04, 2009 @01:30PM (#29313387)

    And they want their personal tutors back.

    No seriously... Throughout history, back before established private schools and universities, the well to do would hire a educated person to basically follow their child around and given them instructions pretty much all the time.

    You know... Socrates and Alexader the Great

  • by digitalderbs (718388) on Friday September 04, 2009 @01:35PM (#29313493)
    And my sister! And our daughter!
  • by Animats (122034) on Friday September 04, 2009 @01:38PM (#29313567) Homepage

    There are some famous examples of this working. But only because the parents had time, money, and high standards.

    One of the Rockefellers, the son of John D., wrote that when he was a kid, his father gave him an allowance. He was required to keep a proper set of double-entry books on how he spent it, and the books were audited by an accountant. He didn't get the next allowance payment until the books balanced.

    Henry Ford II was promised a car for some birthday. On the appointed day, he was taken out to a garage, and there was the car - totally dissembled with all the component parts laid out. A full set of tools was supplied. Eventually, he did get the car assembled and running.

    If you have the resources, it can work.

  • by Oswald (235719) on Friday September 04, 2009 @01:40PM (#29313591)

    When my wife and prepared to homeschool our kids back in 2001, we both talked a lot about unschooling (yes, the term was in use that far back and longer). It intrigued us. At one point we may even have convinced ourselves that we were going to give it a try. But a funny thing happened on the way to unschool. By the time our kids were done with their reading and writing and arithmetic lessons, they didn't have much more time for learning through play than any other kids did.

    Apparently our common sense was stronger than we gave it credit for. No way were we going to let our kids not learn the three R's. In time, we added the usual history and geography and science and so on, and though we never did subscribe to anybody else's curriculum, ours ended up looking pretty standard.

    We did eventually join a homeschool group to give our kids a way to meet other kids, and that group included a few unschooled children. We saw nothing to make us think we had erred in actually educating our kids. The unschoolers weren't unpleasant to be around; they just didn't know much, and even the other kids could see it.

    [This is all in the past tense because our kids started public school this year -- eighth grade. They're on par with the kids in the AP classes in English (excuse me, Language Arts), and algebra. The other classes aren't tracked (grouped, stratified, whatever), so kids of all abilities are in the same classes, and ours are ahead of many of their classmates in those areas. They're experiencing a bit of culture shock, but overall we're pleased with how it's going. FYI.]

    • by WankersRevenge (452399) on Friday September 04, 2009 @02:15PM (#29314357)
      My wife and I are investigating home schooling our child at the moment, and one of her friends in her home schooling network is a big proponent of "no-schooling". Long story short, this woman's nine year old child still cannot read. I find that almost criminal so needless to say, I'm not a big fan of the technique ... if it can be even labeled a technique.
  • Homeschooling (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TrippTDF (513419) <hiland@gmail. c o m> on Friday September 04, 2009 @01:42PM (#29313633)
    I like to call myself a homeschooling survivor. My mother chose to educate my brother and I for reasons that I've never gotten a clear answer on- it was not for religious or political reasons. On the one hand, I actually had an interesting free-form education and I did learn some things better than I would have in a school setting (we did lots of science experiments).

    The thing that I missed was the day to day social interaction with peers. I saw kids my own age just a couple times a week and it was normally at my house or theirs. They were always friends. I never had to deal with a conflict with peers because I simply never had them.

    The social aspects of school are just as important as sitting in a classroom- you need to learn how to deal with others. I'm 30 and I still struggle when i have disagreements with co-workers.

    We need serious school reform in this country, and although there are advantages to homeschooling or unschooling, I think there is still something to be said for classroom learning.
  • I call bullshit (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tony (765) on Friday September 04, 2009 @01:46PM (#29313703) Journal

    This is fucking ludicrous. A large part of the failure of school is because the parents don't get involved. Studies have consistently shown that schools with high parent involvement produce better-educated children, and parents who engage their children outside of school produce better-educated children.

    If parents aren't getting involved in education when the bulk of the burden is on someone else, why would they take any more time to do the whole thing themselves?

    Schools are necessary. Very few parents have the necessary knowledge or experience to properly educate a child. If there is a problem with the school system here in the states, it's up to us to fix it.

    I certainly don't want a society full of uneducated twits. We have enough of those now.

    I knew our society was starting to distrust intelligence and education, and making ignorance a virtue, but this is fucking ridiculous.

  • by missing000 (602285) on Friday September 04, 2009 @03:48PM (#29316053)
    Because you asked...

    I am an example of an individual who grew up with under this exact educational philosophy and I beg to differ on the outcome most of the above commentators anticipate.

    Unschooling is a set of principals and ideas about learning in general which emphasizes the individual's instinctual intellectual desire and capability over institutional time based curricula. It's in no way a new concept, with people like John Holt [wikipedia.org] and Ivan Illich [wikipedia.org] establishing most of the modern ideas in this educational arena several decades ago.

    Though purely anecdotal, my own case is evidence that the method does indeed work, at least in my example, and I would argue it works quite well indeed.

    I grew up without school until the 12th grade, and decided to enroll as a senior in an area High School mostly out of a desire to test my knowledge and socialization prior to venturing out to the greater world the following year. I was presented with a series of intensive placement tests and tested into the top levels of the senior class, where I completed the year and graduated at the statistical top of my small class without much trouble at all.

    Since graduating a dozen years ago, I attained a roll as a senior software engineer at a major financial firm where I continue to design and implement technical solutions to complex problems which interest me. I'm also considered by some a bit of an expert in political strategy and consult a number of elected officials.

    All this while declining to pursue higher education and instead learning from the experts in the fields which interest me.

    I find that learning from those who do is much preferable to learning from those who decide to teach instead.

    Additionally, the most crucial ability a critical thinker can have is the desire for and access to written knowledge and history.

    The sad state of affairs which our educational system finds itself in is one which can obviously be improved. I would think that an open system with 100% subsidy which is open to the learner to take desired courses when they see fit would benefit society immensity.

    Cost of such a system would indeed be high, but quite a bit less than dealing with the problems which a lack of self-motivated education hoist upon the systems of our limited resources. In a light improvements in our system to produce better learners could be viewed as the most cost-effective move we could make.
  • by Kismet (13199) <pmccombs@aCOLAcm.org minus caffeine> on Friday September 04, 2009 @04:02PM (#29316287) Homepage
    I have heard about unschooling, and there are some aspects of it that I find appealing. The appeal has to do with my philosophy about the role of education.

    Our schools are presently designed to help kids be successful in the context of economy (as we understand economy today). American schools are beginning to fall behind in this aspect, but the point is that they are designed to produce kids who work well together as managers, employees, businessmen, etc. We want our kids to get good jobs, be competitive, and become wealthy (or "successful"). This kind of system was imported from Europe, where it continues to enjoy good success toward these ends. There are a lot of amazing things that can be accomplished when people work together this way, there is no doubt about it.

    On the other hand, people like me don't buy into the economic argument for schooling. I'm interested more in the educational, or intellectual aspect that Thomas Jefferson advocated. Schools should seek to build character and create men and women who are suitable for democracy, because they know how to think as individuals and follow their own, unique paths through life. Perhaps there is more emphasis on argument than on cooperation -- I don't know. We do not seek to bend to other people as employees, citizens, etc. Schools should engender the love of learning and help students discover their passion and life's work. The hope is that students will be able to find whatever it is that calls them to action, and then master it. We believe that talent is naturally profuse and must be developed outside of a strict format. This isn't facilitated by the "factory" style public schooling that is operated from the top down. It is more of a ground-up approach, but it could still work as a public system (in my opinion). True, it may not produce massive economic wealth or compete favorably in a capitalistic society, but I am convinced that it can contribute greatly to personal satisfaction and fulfillment.

    What I find is that all my kids are autodidacts. I don't remember actively "teaching" the subject of reading, yet we read together all the time and my son quickly became the best reader of his peer group. On the other hand, some areas that he is not interested in still lag behind his friends because we don't force him to improve in those areas. We expect that he will eventually see a need to develop them. Under such circumstances, it appears to take far less time to learn the subjects that traditionally waste years of our time in formal schools. There, everyone must progress at more or less the same pace; not so with homeschool.

    I realize that people who step outside of the accepted social norm, like I have done with homeschooling, can be feared by others. What if we are too dumb to raise our own kids? For instance, I am lucky to have a high-school diploma, yet I teach my own children. To some, that sounds like madness. What if we ruin the social commons by producing dysfunctional adults? Shouldn't our government protect us from that?

    It's true that sometimes the plans that other people make for us are superior to our own plans for ourselves and our children. Maybe it can be argued that others really do know better, based on some official standard. What I worry about is the ability of these true believers, some who have posted to this story right here on Slashdot, to eliminate the sovereignty of parents over their families. In America, at least, I believe we still subscribe to the idea that regular human beings are fit to guide their own destinies. For me, that is the appeal of homeschool.

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